Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring stitching and party report

Good morning! And how is everyone on this last day of March? I've just experienced one of the busiest months of my life and I'm hoping April brings a much-needed sense of calm! Before I get started on today's post, I want to thank all of you who took the time to comment on my last post. Comments are dwindling all across blogland--even my sons noticed that the comments on my last post were way down. So, I'm thankful for those who still take a minute or two to say "hello" when I post--that means so very much to me... And a warm welcome to my new followers--so glad you are here!

With my crazy-busy March, I had little time to stitch, but did manage a few spring finishes. I think the chick in this Lizzie Kate design (A Chicky Easter) is particularly adorable. Would you believe that with all of the spring/Easter smalls I have stitched, this is the only one with the word "Easter" on it? I changed the border colors from blues to pink and green  (on 40 ct. white Newcastle) and used my own selection of overdyeds. Pale pink beads were added to the stitched flower centers, too. (The colors are softer than appear in this photo--more like the photo shown below in the finished pillow).

The cutest chick around!

I'm so pleased with how the final finish turned out. I made a little pillow with a pink striped fabric, a yellow print fabric, and handmade yellow cording. I then embellished it with a pale pink button topped with a pink gingham ribbon. So bright and cheery! Do you notice the little bunny dish sitting behind it? That is filled with some yummy Sees chocolates that my husband brought home from his skiing trip in Utah earlier this month. You know what else he brought home? A torn ACL in his knee... Sigh... A bad fall ended his trip early and he may be facing surgery down the road. Luckily, with an ACL injury like this, he can still bike, but skiing ever again is definitely out unless he has surgery. 

Finished Lizzie Kate "A Chicky Easter"

Here is my newest pillow nestled in an Easter basket with several other spring pillows. I really love the colors in each of these tiny creations. Spring stitching makes me happy (well, stitching in any season makes me happy to be honest!) Do you have a favorite season to stitch?

Bunnies, chicks, and eggs galore!

My second spring finish is this Shepherd's Bush design called "Joyful Spring" from the Spring Folio chart. I used 40ct. white Newcastle and a variety of spring colors for the flowers, eggs, and tiny chick. I love how the kite string is made from ribbon. This was sent to my French friend, Nathalie (no blog), for her birthday. I simply inserted it into a card opening and mailed it along with a chart and some spring ribbons. With the rising cost of international postage, I'm trying to be creative and save money, too! Nathalie loved it and said she has the card sitting on her desk...

Shepherd's Bush "Joyful Spring" finish

My final Spring finish was made for my boss for her retirement party on March 19th. You will all recognize this as Prairie Schooler's "S Is For Spring" which I have stitched many times before. I chose it for her, not only because it is currently spring, but also because she is beginning a new chapter of her life--a "new spring" so to speak. I forgot to take a photo of it before I gave it to her so I'm simply using the one I took of my own finish back in 2014 as I finished hers exactly the same. My old boss stitches a bit and was so appreciative of my gift.

Prairie Schooler "S Is For Spring"

A darling surprise arrived in the mail last week, too... Just look what hopped over from Germany! This little cutie was sent by my friend Gabi (no blog) for Easter along with a pretty card. Isn't it sweet? Thanks so very much, Gabi--I will think of you each time I decorate for Easter!

Easter gift from sweet Gabi in Germany

Retirement Party Memories... Many of you have asked how the retirement party for my dear boss went that was held at my home... Well, I'm pleased to say it went very well--a little too well, perhaps! You see, now my coworkers are suggesting that I be in charge of future parties as well... And believe me, we have quite a few retiring in this coming decade (including me!). No, I think one is enough for me. I enjoyed the creativity of it, but the preparation was a ton of work and the evening went by so quickly. Anyway, I thought I would share a few of the things I did to help any of you if you ever have to host a retirement party...

First of all, I made a gift card bouquet for her. My coworkers and I all pitched in and purchased a variety of gift cards for my boss based on her various interests including reading (of course!), knitting, pets, tea, movies, etc. I simply printed the flowers off on heavy scrapbooking paper and added centers with cute sayings and graphics. Then I glued on a skewer to each one and attached the gift card to the back with double faced tape.

Each flower held a different gift card

Sam's Club had the most spectacular, giant blue hydrangeas for sale so I purchased one of them, inserted the "flower" skewers and voilà--there you have a personalized, useful, and much appreciated gift. My boss loved it and I know she'll have fun purchasing little gifts for herself for quite some time. 

The finished gift card bouquet

My boss requested, multiple times, that she wanted her party to be kept simple. She doesn't like fuss and so I tried my best to make things fun, but classy. I found a simple reusable banner (you can just slide the cardboard letters off and on to make different sayings) at Target, hung it from my mantle, and placed photos of each member of our department at the library across the top. (Their faces are blurred for privacy making it look like I work with a bunch of aliens!! I can assure you, they are all wonderful, attractive coworkers--I couldn't ask for a better bunch!). In the middle was a framed print with the words "A truly great boss is hard to find, difficult to let go, and impossible to forget." How very true... At the end of the evening, the staff photos were sent home with my boss.

Fireplace decor

A few years ago, my youngest son gave me some magnetic Scrabble tiles for our refrigerator so it has become a family tradition to use them on special occasions. The retirement party was certainly that! So, I created a bit of "refrigerator art" for her using the Scrabble tiles and cute graphics that I printed off the internet. Some of my favorites are "Librarian: The Original Search Engine" and "Librarians Dewey It Better!" It was a big hit and a great conversation piece...

Refrigerator art: librarian style!

Here are some close-ups for you. You'll notice the tiny clothes pins holding up the signs... Well, those were purchased at Target and I simply added tiny pieces of peel-off magnet strips to the back so they would stick on the refrigerator. Such a simple, but cheery touch...

And here is the bottom portion containing my all time favorite graphic (in the lower left) which says "Yes, we have that book with the green cover by that famous guy--It's over in the book section!" Believe it or not, we get so many patrons coming in to the library with these vague requests for things like "that tiny blue book by a woman." Ummm, yeah...

My husband received some personalized M&Ms for his 60th birthday last summer so I decided to splurge and buy some for my boss' retirement party. You can choose your own colors, request short sayings on them and even add a photo of the honoree right here! Too cute and another big hit at the party. 

Personalized M&Ms were such fun!

The food was fabulous! Each coworker brought a dish to pass (something easy to eat as we didn't have a sit-down dinner planned). I made my fruit kebabs (like I showed you in this post), a very tasty light taco dip (recipe can be found here), and chocolate chip cookies. Others brought crabmeat dips, seafood baked in real shells, Swedish meatballs, pork barbecue sliders, veggie trays, olive roll-ups, desserts. Oh, my--a real feast! I wish I had taken a photo of the food before we had devoured most of it, but I did manage to snap a photo (this was only about a third of the dishes!) right at the end before we indulged in the desserts at the end of the table.

The food was so tasty as you can see by the little that remained!

To add interest to the buffet table I made up little signs like these, framed them,  and interspersed them among the food. I found them by googling "retirement party ideas." 

This one was placed next to the desserts... I personalized it (the words in pink) by using "Publisher" on my computer.

And this was my favorite... A miniature poster of an old movie called "Ladies In Retirement!" Don't you love it? At the party, I covered over the name of "Evelyn Keyes" with my boss's name--she loved it!

Having a party means lots of flowers, of course, and between Easter and the retirement party, my house is beginning to look like a floral shop! I took this photo yesterday morning as the sunlight was streaming in the kitchen window. The red Gerbera Daisies were from my oldest son and his girlfriend for Easter and my middle son brought me the most fragrant blue hydrangea I have ever smelled--wonderful!  The pretty shamrock plant in the front came from a coworker to thank me for hosting (along with many, many bottles of wine from other coworkers!).

I could start my own floral shop!

And did you notice that gorgeous orchid on the right? Well, that was given to me when my dad passed away in late 2014 and it has just re-bloomed! What a special gift... I had no hope that I would be able to grow an orchid, but apparently, I'm doing something right. Here is a close-up of the orchid by itself. I think of my dad each time I walk by it...

Blooming once again...

With the arrival of spring (and a most beautiful warm, sunny spring, I might add!), we are seeing more and more wildlife in our yard. The dreaded geese have returned attempting to nest by our pond. We try to chase them off whenever we see them because they make such a terrible mess of our yard. Yes, they are beautiful, but we'll be happier if they choose somewhere else to nest. We haven't seen them in almost a week, so we think they have found a "more welcoming" yard!

Pretty, but, oh, so messy!

And the deer seem to be coming around more and more often. I saw this herd of seven (the 7th is barely visible to the left of the red part of the birdhouse pole) grazing near our pond a few weeks ago. Again, very pretty animals, but they are so destructive to our plantings. We can't plant any flowers out in the open any longer. They end up as deer food time after time. I'm so envious of those of you who can have lovely gardens!

The deer are taking over!

Even daffodils aren't safe--we watched as a deer chomped off one after another while we ate dinner last week. Just look at this photo--I swear he is sticking his tongue out at me!! They are very brazen and seem to think we've planted all of the greenery just for them! That is why anything we truly value has to be planted in the fenced-in raised beds you see behind the deer in the photo below.

"Ha ha ha--you can't stop me!"

Well, I had hoped to share my Uruguay travel photos with you, but have simply run out of time. I'll plan that for next month, okay? I wish each of you a delightful April with many happy stitching moments.  Bye for now...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A couple of finishes, Argentina memories, and a fond farewell...

March is half over and I am just now writing my first post for the month! Oh, what busy, busy days I've been having with lots of changes in my life and more just waiting on the horizon. The biggest change is my dear boss of many, many years retired at the beginning of March. She had been my boss at the library since I returned to work (after taking a ten year "vacation" to raise my three sons) exactly twenty years ago this month. I've tried not to cry, but her leaving has definitely changed things and caused me to rethink my own plans for retirement. It seems so strange to go into work and not see her each day--she was such a role model and inspiration for all of us younger librarians. "Younger," you ask? Yes, even though I am 61 and most of my fellow librarians are a bit older, my boss was well into her 80s! Amazing--and I hope I'm lucky enough to have half her energy when I'm her age. 

Anyway, the busy part of my life lately has revolved around the retirement party for my boss which I'm hosting at my house (for 21+ people). Yikes!! I'll tell you, if you want to de-clutter and organize, all you have to do is mark a big party on the calendar--one that is held at your home! I can't tell you how many things I've cleaned out--the pantry, drawers, bookshelves... So many boxes and bags of items have been tossed, re-purposed, or given to charity. I'm making it sound like I'm some sort of hoarder, aren't I? No, my home was very clean to begin with, but I've really pared down and gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary "things." And what a great feeling! I look around me now and just smile at the things that remain as they are the things that bring me joy. I'm not finished by any means; I still have to sort my closets and the attic, but those can be done after the party.

In between all of the party planning, shopping, cleaning, etc. I've managed a couple of small finishes to share with you today.  The first is my next snowman-themed ornament and oh, what a cutie it is. For March, I stitched a freebie from Casa Mia in Italia which you can find right here (along with many other sweet designs). I used 40 ct. raw Newcastle for this piece and a mixture of overdyeds and DMC threads. I did make a few changes to the design--gave the snowman a "carrot" nose and a "charcoal" mouth, changed the size and shape of the buttons on the girls jacket, and sprinkled snowflakes throughout the little scene. If you'd like to know what specific colors I used, just email me (email address is in my profile).

After I had already finished attaching the red and white checked accent fabric and lace and turned it right side out to begin the stuffing process, I notice that the poor snowman had no buttons! Yes, I had forgotten all about adding them as you can see in the photo above. I tried to sew on beads, but it was just impossible given the small opening I had left for stuffing purposes. So, I did the next best thing--carefully glued the black beads in place. I am now wondering about the black checked bow--should I change it to a red checked one? I think the black gives it a more playful look, but, as usual I am second guessing myself.  Thoughts, anyone?

And because I've had enough winter and in celebration of the fantastically warm March we've had this year (it's felt more like early May!), I stitched a spring design. Most of you will recognize this as "Season of Hope" by Little House Needleworks. For this piece, I used 28 ct. cream evenweave and the suggested DMC colors stitched "over one." And in looking at it on my computer screen, I see I left off one stitch in that tiny purple flower hanging under the lettering. There is supposed to be a center--oops!! Oh well, too late now--I've already framed it!

This is the same frame that I used for the Season of Plenty that I stitched in 2011 and I plan on stitching the other two seasons and simply switching them out throughout the year.  I already stitched the summer design in a larger format, but plan on re-stitching it to fit this frame. I just love this framed finish and now have it sitting on my newly reorganized bookshelf in my family room.

In other stitching news, I received a truly lovely belated birthday gift from my friend, Valerie, in San Francisco. Just look at this beauty designed by Hands On Design! It is impeccably stitched and I just love the finishing and the tiny buttons. What a special gift, my friend--I'll treasure it! Valerie also included some pretty overdyed threads and some finishing fabrics.  Thank you so very much, my sweet friend...

Thank you all for your nice comments on my Argentina photos that I posted last time. Are you ready for Part 2? Remember when I told you I was dividing the photos into 3 parts? Well, I lied--after going through them again, I had to divide them into 4 parts. There were just too many to try to condense into three posts and, since my blog acts a bit like a stitching and travel diary for me, I want to include as many as I need so I can look back at this and remember our 2015 Argentina trip when I am old(er) and gray(er)...

So, on to Buenos Aires: Part 2...  One of the most iconic sights in the city is this beautiful pink mansion: La Casa Rosada which is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina. Unlike the White House here in the U.S, though, the President of Argentina does not live there. La Casa Rosada sits on the eastern end of one of the main squares in the city, Plaza de Mayo.

La Casa Rosada

We arrived in Buenos Aires on a very historic day: November 22, 2015--the day of the Argentinian Presidential elections.  There was a huge police presence and, although a bit disconcerting, we never felt unsafe. Big buses like this one filled with federal police could be seen near the Plaza de Mayo. I found it so interesting that voting is compulsory for people between the ages of 18 and 70 in Argentina--I wonder how they monitor that? The election results were very close and potentially life-changing as it marked a big turn in government for the people of Argentina. The new president is Mauricio Macri and the honking of car horns and celebrating by his supporters went on long into our first night.

My youngest son actually had an article published online about the election called "A Right Turn in Argentina" which you can read  here.  With the change in leadership, the U.S. is hoping for warmer relations with Argentina. 

The police were everywhere due to the presidential election

Ever since the May 25th, 1810 revolution that led to independence from Spain, the Plaza de Mayo has been the center of most of the political rallies, protests, and activities in Buenos Aires.

Plaza de Mayo: the political hub of Buenos Aires

Here is a close-up of the May Pyramid which celebrates the May 25, 1810 independence day.

The Pirámide de Mayo: The May Pyramid

I loved this photo of my guys following our guide, Beatrice, across the brick pathway at the Plaza de Mayo.

Following our guide on the Plaza de Mayo

Did you notice those white painted things on the brick pathways? This was so, so interesting to me. They represent the "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" whose children were "disappeared" in the so-called "Dirty War" military dictatorship of 1976-1983. Close to 30,000 children (young adults who were considered enemies of the dictator and his government) were taken and are presumed dead. This is a better photo (borrowed from the internet) of the symbol--a white kerchief similar to what the mothers wore as they walked in protest each week. I can't imagine that during the same time period (less than 40 years ago) that I was graduating from college, getting married, and having my first child, so many mothers in Argentina were having to deal with such a thing...

The white kerchief: symbol of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

I wanted to see the church where  Pope Francis (then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio) served until he was elevated to Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013 so we asked our guide to give us a tour of Catedral Metroplitana de Buenos Aires. The site of the church overlooks the Plaza de Mayo and the foundation was first set in 1580. Through the years, the church has been rebuilt several times.

Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires

The guide told us that Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) often spoke from this lecturn. I am not Catholic, but I admire the current Pope so much. I love his humility and compassion--he really seems to connect with people of all religions and inspires me to live my life in a kinder, simpler, more selfless manner.

The current Pope often spoke from this spot when he was a Cardinal.

I wish we could have spent more time at the church--there was so much to see...

Beautiful tile floors in the Cathedral

I'm not sure what this room is called, but the artwork was exceptional.

Side rooms filled with stunning paintings and sculptures

The Mausoleum of General José de San Martín is housed within the cathedral. He is Argentina's most revered hero having led the charge for Argentina's independence from Spain in the early 19th century.

Mausoleum of General José de San Martín

The mausoleum is guarded at all times. On our way out of the church we passed this group of soldiers on their way for the "changing of the guard." They are dressed in the uniforms of San Martin's army.

Soldiers on their way to guard San Martín's mausoleum

Can you name the famous woman featured on the Ministry of Health Building? Why, it's Argentina's Eva Perón, of course! Here, she is giving a fiery speech. On the other side of the building is another 10-story image of her in a smiling, more relaxed pose.

The Ministry of Health Building

I had to practically drag my guys kicking and screaming to tour the Teatro Colón, the world-famous opera house in Buenos Aires. Now, I am no opera fan (apologies to those of you who are), but when you have a chance to see the third-ranked opera house in the world (according to National Geographic Magazine), you take it! Oh, what a glorious building--I can just picture the men and women in all their finery mingling in the grand entrance hall below.

Grand entrance hall at Teatro Colón

The sculptures were breathtaking--can you spot the little angel?

Italian marble, French stained glass, and Venetian mosaics abound in the Hall of Busts.

And the ceilings--oh, my!

And another...

But, this was my favorite...

Ethereal looking angels playing musical instruments

Here is a closer look:

Lots of gilding in this room!

Here is the main 2487 seat concert hall. My photos just don't do it justice. The world-renowned tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, once said about the theater: “…it has a very big defect, its acoustic is simply perfect. Imagine what that means for a singer: if one makes a mistake, it is noticed immediately …”

The rich scarlet and gold decor is stunning

Note the trompe l'oeil "curtains" in the balconies and main stage. Our guide told us this helps with the acoustics.

Balconies at Teatro Colón

Here is a close-up of the trompe l'oeil curtain on the main stage.

Painted "curtains" help with the acoustics

And there was yet another gorgeous painted ceiling in the cupola of the main concert haul by Raul Soldi. Titled the "allegorical ceiling" it features 16 painted fabrics which were glued to the dome. Musicians and actors fill the scenes.

The allegorical ceiling in the cupola of the Teatro Colón

But this was my favorite--some chess-playing gentlemen:

Chess, anyone?

And a final shot of one of the lavish waiting rooms where opera goers went during intermission and to "see and be seen."  It looks like a palace, doesn't it? It must have been quite the place to be back in the day!

The Golden Hall

Final thoughts on Buenos Aires... When my youngest son first arrived in the city of Buenos Aires last September he told me, "Mom, I don't think you'll like it here--there is so much graffiti and you really have to watch where you walk because people don't clean up after their dogs." "Yuk," I thought to myself. As I told you in my last post, I was truly hesitant about making this trip at all. But, in the end I'm so glad I did. It opened my eyes to a part of the world that I knew nothing about. Yes, there was graffiti--but there was also beautiful street art like this painted facade. As in any city, there is the good and the bad. I choose to remember the good...

So, that wraps up Part 2. Next time in Part 3, I'll take you to Uruguay where we spent a wonderful day exploring an old Portuguese settlement.  Right now, I really have to concentrate on the final preparations for my boss's retirement party--so much still to do, so little time. I'm a very nervous entertainer--I worry way too much. But, I'm just so honored to be able to help my boss celebrate her long career and continue our enduring friendship. I'm trying my best to  remember that wonderful saying "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  (But, it's still hard to say that final "goodbye!).  Thank you all for visiting! Bye for now...

Wishing you a joyous spring!